From the Tas Chapter President

NinaHamilton-TasmanianEventPhotographer-2019AIATasChapterXmasParty-Brickworks-web-78 1230 x 300 tiny
Image: Nina Hamilton

This speech was delivered at the Hobart Christmas Party, while cruising the River Derwent:


Welcome aboard as we cruise the Derwent River.

Firstly, the river.

The banks of the river where we cruise were once covered by forests of she-oak trees and heavily populated by the local tribes. The river was known by its palawa kani name, timtumili minanya.

In 1793, British Commodore John Hayes explored the lower reaches of the river and named it the River Derwent after its namesake in Cumbria.

I’ll leave the river now but will return.

The three pillars of the Institute are education, advocacy and practice, and it’s been another busy and productive year for the Tasmanian Chapter, with both new and ongoing programs and activities being undertaken under these categories.

Among our major achievements this year are:

A successful awards program, which attracted a large number of entries (35), excellent media coverage and resulted in a number of projects representing our state at the National Architectural Awards. On behalf of the membership I’d like to congratulate Liz and Alex on winning an National Award for Interior Architecture for their beautiful project “#TheBaeTAS”.

We continue to roll out the CPD program in Hobart and Launceston and beyond, broadening our reach and increasing CPD offerings via livestream and on demand content.

We saw the second Open House Launceston program with a total of 34 featured buildings across the city with additional events and walking tours. In terrible weather the event was hugely successful, with a strong public engagement and support from northern members, including our young EmAGN and SONA group and the student body. Thank you to everyone, including those who travelled from the south to Launceston to help out on the day. 

The seventh and biggest Open House Hobart featured over 75 buildings, 9 customised walking tours and over 250 individual tours, engaged the public with our urban spaces and built environment.

It was a wonderful weekend sharing the value of architecture with the public, allowing them to experience it first-hand. The program, at its core, is education – an opportunity for everyone to learn about architecture and our built environment through experiencing it.

But it is more than that. It is stealth advocacy at is finest. Open House is now attracting the attention of councils and governments. Once we were knocking on their doors, and now they are banging down ours to be involved.

This year’s Open House, both in Launceston and Hobart, attracted record attendance, with the combined numbers at approximately 25 thousand people. In any measure this is astounding!

I would encourage all members to get behind this program, whether as a volunteer or preferably by showcasing your work by opening one of your projects. You’ll be surprised and the levels of engagement and the doors it opens for you in return.

A massive thank you to all of you who assisted with the program – it couldn’t be done without you (especially Mike, Tash, Nick and a big thank you to Katie’s architects on call, who covered buildings when volunteers didn’t show up).

The Tas Chapter continues to advocate on behalf of the industry in relation to issues that affect the quality and sustainability of our built environment, and not a week goes by where we don’t contribute to discussions around procurement, local government, planning issues and strengthening advocacy efforts. There is no end to this is and it will be an ongoing concern, as it has for many years prior.

The Chapter made many submissions to government and industry including:

Response to the Draft Building Services Providers Licensing Determination; response to the Government about the Affordable Housing Action Plan 2 and the preferred procurement protocols for these projects; and a discussion with the Department of Treasury and Finance regarding changes to the Consultants Prequalification Scheme.

We are working with the Board of Architects of Tasmania on gap reform to the Architects Act which we are happy to say is making its way through the parliamentary process. Thanks to Richard Crawford and Geoff Harper for their efforts in facilitating that. 

The Chapter is working with University of Tasmania Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rufus Black, on a number on a number of issues as they develop a UTAS presence in our major cities. Recently Rufus took the time to attend a forum with members about procurement, the future of the University, and his thoughts on architectural matters.

We worked with the Burnie City Council regarding the consultant selection process and services brief discussions on the North West Museum and Art Gallery (NWMAG). This is a significant project in a regional city and we are very happy to see local practice Terrior secure another opportunity to make a significant contribution to the North West Coast. Good architecture working in regions is critical.

The Chapter responded to the Tasmanian Government’s Statutory Review of the Aboriginal Heritage Act, and to the Draft Waste Action Plan, submitted a representation to the City of Hobart’s Proposed Amendments to the Planning Scheme, and as a result of this engagement, the City of Hobart has approached the Chapter for a representative to sit on an External Reference Group during the development of a Central Hobart Precincts Plan.

We continue to build a reputation as an organisation that provides collaborative and positive leadership within our community. 

I’m very aware that we are a state-based organisation and over a third of members are in the north and north west of our state. We undertook two very successful practice forums in Launceston to engage with northern members and one in Hobart, which resulted in good discussions about the profession.

But it’s not always smooth sailing and the river runs on.

On the Derwent there was a thriving whaling industry until the 1840s when the industry rapidly declined due to over-exploitation. The whales never came back. 

With industrialisation along the river banks came pollution and contamination, the waters contaminated with agricultural runoff. Mercury and zinc have made the river’s fish inedible and have damaged water quality.

There is always much work to do, as that is for us.

Recent trends indicate that governments and major clients continue to tinker with procurement processes, shifting more risk on the principal consultant, which in turn is confusing members’ insurance coverage. Changes in bank practices and government determinations has made some contracts difficult to use, effectively creating problems for our members ability to administer them. We continue to advocate for increased funding for activities such as CPD. And we continue to work closely with major public and private clients to improve procurement practices and importantly ensure Tasmanian architects are front and centre and engaged in a meaningful manner on significant projects.

Many of these couldn’t have been completed without the support of our committees so I would like to thank everyone who has responded to our feedback and volunteer callouts. Thank you.

Now back to the river.

The source of the Derwent is close to Lake St Clair – it is formed by confluence of Narcissus and Cuvier Rivers.

The river descends more than 700 metres over a distance of more than 230 kilometres, eventually emptying into Storm Bay

A member organization, like a river, relies on its source.

Of course, these activities, events and programs would not be possible without the support of our corporate partners – our Principal Corporate Partner, BlueScope Steel; our Major National Partner Dulux and Brickworks; our National Corporate Partners, AWS, Bondor and Fielders Lysaght; our National Supporting Partners, USG Boral and Built Environment Channel; our National Media Partner, Architecture Media; our National Insurance Partner, Planned Cover; our State Partners – Access Solutions, Aldanmark, Brickworks, The Built Environment Channel, Fairbrother, McKay Timber, Southern Lighting and Distribution and the Tasmanian Heritage Council; our Supporting State Partner, Polytec; our In-kind Partners, The Mercury and Zip; and also The University of Tasmania, VOS, JAWS Architects, NATSPEC and Jetmaster for their partnership with other events in 2019.

I’d also like to thank our Open House Hobart partners – our Major Partners, the City of Hobart and the Tasmanian Government; our Design Partner, Futago; our Media Partners ABC Radio and Houses; our Partners Access Solutions, Austral Bricks and the University of Tasmania; and our In-kind Partner, Splendid Gin.

The river runs on.

Most of Hobart’s water supply is taken from the lower River Derwent. But is also supports agriculture, forestry, hydropower generation and fish hatcheries. To do this it relies on the strength of its the tributaries and their catchments.

Tributaries that feed the Derwent to the left are the Nive, Dee, Ouse, Clyde and Jordan Rivers, and to the right the Repulse, Teena, Styx, Plenty, and Lachlan Rivers.

A member organisation like ours is like a river – it’s only a strong as its tributes or its members.

I’d personally like to thank members of the Tasmanian Chapter Council: Gaetano Palmese, Dik Jarman, Paul Wakelam, Sophie Bence, Bee Newman, Dan Lane, Genevieve Lilley, and Chris Morrison.

I’d like to thank Carly McMahon who has just stepped down from Chapter Council and relocated to Queensland, and particularly welcome Jono Buist into Carly’s role. It’s important to once again have a northern Chapter Councillor, who will be soon joined by our second one in Pippa Jensen in February. We welcome you both. 

I would also like to say a particular thank you to our out-going Chapter Councillor, Cath Hall. Her contribution across Chapter Council has been key in many advocacy efforts. She’s been the driving force behind the practice forums and we hope she will continue to assist us in the future.

I’d also like to thank Chapter Councillor Richard Crawford and Past Presidents, Yvette Breytenbach and Brad Wheeler, for their constant support and sage advice. One significant cultural quirk in our Chapter is the support that previous presidents provide for the current ones. This overlap is very important as it ensures continuity and a little bit of sanity. For their time and energy I’m forever thankful.

I’m excited to announce to all members that Emily Ouston has been appointed as Vice President of the Tasmanian Chapter of the Institute. For those who don’t know, Emily is an experienced and extremely talented architect and has made a significant contribution to Chapter Council this year. We are very lucky to have Emily as part of the leadership team and I looking forward to working with Emily in 2020.

I would also like to congratulate David Button who received his fellowship this year. I believe a strong culture is important for any organization, and the history and legacy is a part of that, and acknowledgement of people’s contributions over a long period is critical.

Dave Button is one of our most loved members. His contribution to Tasmanian architecture through practice and his long involvement with the Institute mean that Dave has had a significant make on the Tasmanian Chapter.

I was lucky to be invited to Dave’s farewell drinks during the year and a scan around the room and the diverse faces was telling as to the mark Dave has made on many. I, like a lot of you, regard David as a friend first and industry colleague second, so it gives me an enormous amount of pleasure to present a fellowship certificate to David Button.

I’d like to thank Sophie Bence and Bec Verrier for supporting me through all the absences. Their efforts have been astounding to keep our little practice ticking along.

Finally, on behalf of everyone, I’d like to thank the team in the Chapter office. One thing I have discovered is that we are also unique as a Chapter as all or our Chapter staff have degrees in architecture. This is also very rare, and for this we are the envy of the nation. I’d like to thank Fiona, Katie, Lara and also Pip for their unyielding commitment to the Chapter and its members through the year.

And to Jen, thank you for your tireless work on behalf of us, your unyielding patience with all of us, and leadership and guidance for myself, for the Chapter, and its staff.    

Finally, the river.

Recently after 200 years the whales have come back. They come to feed and rest; some using the river as a safe place to give birth to their calves.

To everyone, enjoy the break. On behalf of the Institute I wish you and your families well over this Christmas and New Year period … and just like the southern right, humpback and minke whales…… return next year! 


Shamus Mulcahy

Tasmanian Chapter President
Australian Institute of Architects